Coral Bleaching Goes from Bad to Worse
November 19, 2010
The year 2005 was devastating for coral, with unusually warm waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea causing one of the worst bleaching events on record. Researchers who monitored the event have now catalogued the full extent of the disaster - and they warn that 2010 is shaping up to be even worse.
Mark Eakin, coordinator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch programme based in Silver Springs, Maryland, and his colleagues performed an extensive coral survey to record the effects of unseasonally high temperatures on reefs in 2005. The project involved more than 250 collaborators from 22 countries, and compared satellite data with field surveys to determine how heat stress affected the coral in different places.
In a paper published this week in PLoS ONE, the researchers report the most severe coral bleaching ever recorded in the Caribbean: more than 80% of the corals surveyed were bleached, and at many sites more than 40% died. "Severe, widespread bleaching spells trouble for tropical marine ecosystems in general," says Eakin.
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